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Equity and Justice

Long Island, Mississippi

Deep South, Progressive North?

For those of you that don’t know, I’m originally from Covington, La. Louisiana is a short distance from Mississippi. Like many parts of the Deep South, racism runs rampant. It’s the type of racism that no one should ever have to experience. My thoughts have always been that Southern racism doesn’t exist in the progressive North. Insert Long Island, Mississippi.

What if I told you Long Island was Racist?

What if I told you Long Island was one of the most segregated areas in the United States. Would you believe me? Newsday released a project in late 2019 that depicted the racial divide that exists on Long Island. Also, in my opinion, it likened progressive Long Island to the racial divides that lived in rural areas of Mississippi before and during the Civil Rights Movement.

Longwood High School.

Circa 2020 and incident recently occurred at a prominent Long Island High School known for its diversity and Sports Programs, Longwood High School. The population of Longwood High School is about 2800 students from grades 9-12. The annual budget for the high school is at or around 40+ million dollars a year.

Longwood High School is currently in the news for a misstep committed by one of the teachers. First, the Zoology teacher took students to the Bronx Zoo for a field trip. Next, It always makes me smile when students are allowed to go on field trips that can expand their background knowledge on a subject. But no one could have expected what was to follow from this field trip.

Zoology?

The Zoology teacher convinced a group of Black students to pose for a picture. The picture was of students lined up in sequential order. In the video below is a photo that occurred in from of the gorilla cage at the Bronx Zoo on a field trip.

Moreover, the next month, the teacher presented the students with a slide show. In the first slide, the teacher showed a portrait of Monkeys, and the caption read, “Monkey See.” In the following slide, the teacher displayed the picture of the students lined up sequentially at the Bronx Zoo. The caption under that picture read “Monkey Do.”

Monkey See, Monkey Do.

The lives of these students will change forever from this moment forward.  As a result of this misstep, one can’t discount the psychological harm bestowed upon these students.

The Cover-Up.

Administrators got wind of the situation, and a conspiracy to erase evidence ensued. Administrators threatened one of the students. The student was threatened with if he refused to delete the photos of the slideshow from his phone. The mere thought that this could happen to students has me numb. Furthermore, administrators made a conscious choice to put the needs of their staff over the needs of the students that they are supposed to educate.

Why does this mean so much to me? As a charter school leader, 20% of my students come from the Longwood Central School District. Currently, our school ends in 8th grade. It could have very well been one of our students that experienced this horrible event.

Protect Adults at All Costs.

Notwithstanding, the Longwood Central Superintendent is writing the incident off as a lapse in judgment. That’s ridiculous and calculated. The presentation was at least a month after the picture from the Brox Zoo. Because this teacher was able to sit on this information and deliver the content to his students.

The parents of the students have filed a 12 million dollar lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges the students faced racial discrimination and mental anguish.

Tenure = Bulletproof on Long Island, Mississippi.

The teacher, a seasoned veteran with over 20 years of experience in the district, is tenured. Tenured on Long Island, for those unfamiliar means you are “bulletproof.” Certainly, little to nothing will happen to this teacher. My sources tell me that this wasn’t a one-off. Hence, over the years, this teacher has had problems with black and brown students.

My wish is that Long Island, Mississippi, embrace a culture and demographics that are quickly changing and that it has more tolerance for its students of color. Also, I’m growing rather tired of the attacks on Black students. It is as if Black students are under siege. When will it all end?

By Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr.

Mr. Ankrum is the current Superintendent of the Riverhead Charter School. Mr. Ankrum has gained notoriety as a school turnaround expert. He is enthusiastic about helping students from low (SES) find ways to end generational poverty through educational advocacy. If you believe PoC can end generational poverty by exercising educational opportunities, you have an ally in @Mr_Ankrum.

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